I’ve created this blog to showcase the oftentimes overlooked work that happens and the workers who make it happen outside of our classrooms at Burlington Public Schools. I’m talking about the operations side of a school system. Surely, when discussing a school system, you must first think about children and learning. Those are our top two priorities in Burlington. Burlington has wonderful educators, students and families, so those two priorities are covered.
Burlington has 6 schools; High School, Middle School, and 4 Elementary Schools, or close to a million square feet of building space. These buildings support about 3500 Burlington children and about 550 educational staff. As Director of Operations, I oversee and coordinate with the teams responsible for Facilities, Finance, Technology, Cafeteria and Transportation. Over the course of this blog, I will introduce employees, discuss ongoing and future projects, provide information and pictures, and share what we do in Burlington to keep our students safe, support our educators, and promote learning.
As I don’t like to ask anyone to do something that I am unwilling to do myself, I will start. My name is Robert Cunha. I am a lifelong resident of Burlington, though I did graduate from Shawsheen Technical High School. I am married to an Elementary School Teacher and have 2 young children, one of whom attends Kindergarten in Burlington. Trade-work was instilled in me from a very young age, with electricians, plumbers, heavy machine operators, welders, and computer engineers in my family.
My college education is non-traditional. I earned my Bachelor’s in Science formally in Technology, specifically Information Security with a minor in Computer Networking at ITT after starting my family and working full time. I’m hoping that knowledge learned in school, along with my previous technical work experience, is what got me past my initial interview in Burlington almost 10 years ago. I spent the early part of my career in Burlington as a Systems Engineer for the School department. Time flies, but roughly 5 years ago I became the Director of Technology for both the Town and School District.
Burlington has been fortunate to see a complete technology revival in the past 10 years, and I’m glad to have been a part of it. From bringing the Town and District under a common wireless umbrella, becoming a 1:1 school system of iPads, having a unified Town-wide Fiber network, new VOIP Phone system and more, there has never been a dull moment.
This experience allowed me to broaden my view of Local Government. Not only did I have to manage two separate budgets, I was fortunate to be able to interact with with all of the Town’s departments. Having the technology meet individual department needs meant developing relationships with individual department leaders to understanding the respective functions and processes of their departments. The relationships I have built and my knowledge of the many departments in Town gave me the confidence to respond to the internal posting for the Director of Facilities, Finance, and Technology – currently simplified to the Director of Operations. Moreover, these relationships have proven to be invaluable to me in the first few months of my current role and extremely beneficial in maintaining and expanding the collaboration that is at the foundation of the School District and General Government relationship.
As the Director of Operations for Burlington Public Schools I oversee Facilities, Finance, Technology, Cafeteria, Clerical and Transportation. On July 1st we also created Facility, Finance, and Technology Manager roles in addition to our existing Food Services Director. This four-person team allows for more focused expertise, efficiency and flexibility in the day to day operations. It allows these department leaders to have a consistent, daily focus within their field of responsibility.
My role is not only to oversee and collaborate with these departments, but coordinate daily with all operations employees. This includes new projects and policies, statements of Interest for larger building projects, contract negotiations, reviewing purchases and budgets, compliance, insurance, hiring and appointments, scheduling, training, and grievances/discipline. I work closely with the Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, and provide reports and updates to the School Committee.
Parts of this job are new, but I am always striving to learn and achieve more. I enjoy taking classes regularly. Most recently I have completed the Massachusetts Municipal Administrators (MMA) certificate program in Local Government Leadership and Management through Suffolk University, as well as certification from the Office of the Inspector General in Public Contracting, and Supplies and Services (MCPPO). While not an expert in all operational areas (yet), I have a talented team of experts and I look forward to introducing them to the community and to my continued learning and the opportunity to serve Burlington to the best of my ability.